Named after the Jawoyn Traditional Owner, Peter Jatbula, the Jatbula Trail is a 62km (38.5 miles) one-way hike that is divided into separate parts. The trail starts at Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge and ends at Leliyn (Edith Falls). Travel through the western edge of the Arnhem Land escarpment and trace the footsteps of the Jawoyn people who have inhabited the land of Nitmiluk Gorge for several generations.
The Jatbula Trail’s Location + How to Get There
Jatbula Trail is located near Katherine in the Northern Territory. The starting point (Nitmiluk Gorge) of Jatbula Trail is 27km away from Katherine. The end of the trail at Leliyn is approximately 63km away from Katherine. However, if you’re traveling from Darwin to Katherine, your options are to take a 55-minute flight from Darwin International Airport to Katherine Airport or to drive 317km (4 hours) to Katherine. If you prefer the first option, there are multiple options on Skyscanner. If you want to drive, take National Highway 1 in Holtze from the A15. Then, follow National Highway 1 to O’shea Terrace in Katherine.
To get to the trail, you can be picked up from Katherine to Nitmiluk Gorge, which is 27km away. From Nitmiluk Gorge, you need to take a ferry from Nitmiluk Gorge to the start of the trail at 17 Mile Creek. The ferry costs $15.00 AUD per person and departs twice a day–once at 7 A.M. and once at 9 A.M. Passengers must be at the boat ramp 15 minutes prior with permits ready in hand. Book your ferry at the Nitmiluk Tours website. However, you can also call +61 1300 146 743 or email [email protected].
Once you finish the 62km hike and end at Leliyn, you are eligible to be transferred to the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre or to Katherine. Leliyn to Katherine is a 63km (45-minute) drive, and Leliyn to the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre is a 90km (1 hour) drive. Gecko Canoeing and Trekking ([email protected] & +61 0427 067 154) offers transfers.
Cars can be parked at public parking lots on both ends of the trail. However, you must not forget to tell Leliyn kiosk or Nitmiluk Gorge’s desk the details of your car, your name, and your return date.
How do you book a trip to the Jatbula Trail?
Before you use the Northern Territory’s official government website to book your Jatbula Trail trip, you need an account on the booking system with a valid email address, as well as a credit card to pay for the trip with. Then use the Northern Territory Parks Booking System to book your multi-day walking trail reservation. First, choose your walk and include your start date, number of nights, and number of people on the walk. Next, choose a campground for each night of your walk. Finally, reserve your trip and complete the final details, pay, and you’re set to go trek the Jatbula Trail!
Ideal Itinerary for the Jatbula Trail
The trail is commonly completed over the course of 5 to 6 days. Each night is spent at a campsite you book in the trail’s booking system, and each campsite is located near a beautiful spring, waterfall, or cascade.
Nitmiluk to Biddlecombe Cascades – 8.3km
Biddlecombe to Crystal Falls – 11km
Crystal Falls to 17 Mile Falls – 10km
17 Mile Falls to Sandy Camp – 16.8km
Sandy Camp to Sweetwater Pool – 11.1km
Direct to Leliyn – 15.6km
Sweetwater to Leliyn – 4.5km
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What to Pack for Your Trip
There are several items that must go into your Jatbula Trail hiking pack! For clothes, make sure to pack long and loose clothes, hiking socks/boots, a microfiber towel, and a bandanna to wick away sweat or cover wounds. For overnight camping, pack sleeping bags, sleeping mats, and blankets. If you’re looking for ideas on what to bring for meals, look no further! Bring a portable cooking set, like the Triangia, a small non-stick pot, non-perishable food items (beef jerky, cup-a-soups, etc.), and protein bars as a snack. Remember to pack medical supplies as well: bandages, tweezers, painkillers for fatigue, sunscreen, insect repellent, hand sanitizer, and alcohol wipes for injuries. Make sure to pack a lot of water, as well as a purifier or purification tablets.
Before you leave for Jatbula Trail, make sure you’re physically fit with relative bushwalking experience due to the difficulty of the trail. Jatbula Trail is rated as a grade 4 track (moderate to difficult), so practice walking over rough terrain with heavy backpacks.
Safety briefings are given at 8am and 3pm each day; however, if you’re taking the 7am ferry, you must attend the 3pm briefing the next day. If you’re taking the 9am ferry, you can attend either. Tell a trustworthy person about your whereabouts and personal information, and bring a satellite phone or beacon locator with you in the case that you need to be rescued. Each campsite on the trail is located near freshwater, but before drinking anything, filter the water and use a purification device (such as a water purifier or purification tablets). Make sure to drink lots of water to avoid heat exhaustion and dehydration. Here are some tips on how to beat the heat. There are several waterholes, creeks, and other swimming options that are safe to swim in, but on the Jatbula Trail, you should always be aware of your surroundings. Do not climb waterfalls or get close to cliff edges, and be on the lookout for fast flowing rapids and slippery rocks.
So come on down to Jatbula Trail and book your trip for the upcoming walking season!
If you’ve explored Nitmiluk National Park or have trekked the Jatbula Trail, we’d love to hear from you! Your feedback helps us enhance the visitor experience, so please take a moment to comment below and share your thoughts.
Norther would like to invite you to explore more about the beauty of the Jatbula Trail and Nitmiluk National Park here. And… as always, you can get more inspiration for other National Parks & Destinations to visit by following @northerhq or get your Nitmiluk National Park daily fix @nitmiluknationalpark on Instagram or join the official Facebook group.
*Cover image by @grants_abroad